Great Barrington — What better place to get book recommendations than from the booksellers at your local independent bookstore? Here are some of the latest staff picks from the Bookloft:
“If the Creek Don’t Rise” by Leah Weiss. Pamela Pescosolido, the owner of the Bookloft, has this to say: “Told from many points of view, we are given glimpses into the richness (of emotion and thought) of lives of extreme poverty in 1960s Appalachia (Baines Creek, North Carolina). From the pregnant, abused, teenage bride, to the wise healer woman up the mountain, from the teacher come from the Valley, to the shy man seen by all only as the less-than-smart sidekick to the town’s bully: they all have secret lives and dreams barely seen by their neighbors. A beautifully written debut novel.”
Pam also recommends “The Salt Line” by Holly Goddard Jones: “A dystopian future described through a literary-suspense thriller not quite like anything else I’ve read. The characters are vivid and true. The story is complete in itself, but I’m left wanting to know what happens next for Edie & West & Marta & Violet as they each move on from the closing scenes. Even the “villains” are well-rounded and empathetic each in their own despicable ways.”
“The Girl in the Tower” by Katherine Arden. Book buyer and co-manager Julia says: “Katherine Arden has brought us another rich and vibrant story with her second book. This is a magical, dark, and gorgeously done tale of historical fantasy. I love the Russian folklore and the characters overflowing with life. Everything wonderful about ‘The Bear and The Nightingale’ is here in ‘The Girl in the Tower.’ Don’t pass up this series!”
“A Secret History of Witches” by Louisa Morgan. Co-manager Zazu says,:”This book is so much more than the title alone implies – I gulped it down in 2 days, though it’s also the PERFECT book to sink into and stretch out over a long winter! Historical fiction at its absolute finest, this book follows the story of 5 generations of Romani women – mothers and daughters over the course of changing centuries – who must endure the sexism and xenophobia inherent with their family legacy and the times. Each generation is extraordinarily unique in personality, desires, and goals, yet the obstacles they face repeat themselves, just in different ways.
“The language twists and turns beautifully, allowing you to clearly envision the wind-swept cliff-tops, damp leaves swirling into a cave that offers refuge; to spy the twisted darkness deep in the eyes of a pristine, self-righteous priest; to feel both the aching love of a gnarled cat and the sudden vitriolic hate of a former steadfast husband that target women of every age.
“Fans of Outlander, Practical Magic, and other female-empowered family sagas and historical fiction will never want to leave these deliciously absorbing pages. Louisa Morgan, I await your next book with great anticipation!”
Bookseller Giovanni recommends two soon-to-be-published story collections:
“Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories” by Kelly Barnhill. “Barnhill writes with elegance and poetry reminiscent of Bradbury, but with a voice all her own. These stories capture beautifully the depths and subtleties of emotions familiar to us all, but unique to everyone. From Magical Realism to Fantasy, from an English ghost story to a modern fairy tale, these stories will fill you with wonderment.”
“The Sea Beast Takes a Lover” by Michael Andreasen. “This is a beautiful collection of stories full of mysticism, magic and wit. These are tales about people, about love, about loneliness and loss. Each one is different, each one is sad and beautiful and magical. Read this book. You won’t be disappointed.”
Bookseller Tim raves about “Vacationland” by John Hodgman: “This is one funny book! Imagine your high school writing assignments – the ones where you had to work on your inner monologue by creatively describing true events from your life – but then imagine they were written by an expert comedian and NYT bestselling author. (You possibly know John Hodgman from his tenure as a correspondent on The Daily Show, or his current podcast “Judge John Hodgman,” but more likely as a PC from the Mac & PC commercials in the late 2000s.) Hodgman’s stories are simply about growing up in Massachusetts, being an only child, or going to school in New York, or speaking at events as a nerd-fandom public figure, but they are the literary equivalent of great stand-up. His comedic timing and absurdity are perfect. And yet his experiences have meaning that can resonate universally. I didn’t grow up an only child in MA, and I’m not on TV, but I feel like I can completely relate to his weird observations of the world.”
Longtime bookseller Linda loves reading nonfiction. Her latest pick in that realm is “Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything” by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. Linda says: ” What’s your “recipe” for distress? Need a sip of radium water for a pick-me-up? How about a REAL cold shower? And just draining a few drops of blood can (maybe, but probably not) reduce your fever. A little arsenic can keep that pale attractive complexion! This is a book you may not want to read all at once – too much to digest. But the methods employed by those in the medical profession (barbers or not!) and those quick money-making schemes certainly tried to solve health problems over the centuries. Extreme treatments were used to relieve pain or try to cure an illness or help you become more attractive – and extreme treatments were par for the course. I’m sure folks will think twice about asking a friend about their health. Because if they read this book they may make some suggestions!!”
The Bookloft’s newest staff member, Virginia, loves “Everything Here is Beautiful” by Mira T. Lee: “I’m not exactly sure what to say about this book — it hits every note perfectly? It does. A story of family and of the ways in which mental illness touches everyone, there is no victim here, there are no bad guys. Instead, we’re pulled into a story in which love is complicated by fear, by responsibility, by frustration and exhaustion. Both familiar and compelling. Lee’s writing is extraordinary; her storytelling is, too. We know from the start that it’s all going to go bad, somehow, but as we follow these people, our definition of bad resets. We feel each event unfold, feel its reverberations for every character before they regroup and move forward again. Whatever forward might mean for them.”
Ellyne suggests “Dark at the Crossing” by Elliot Ackerman: “A man struggles to get safe passage to America only to be faced with the existential angst immigrants so often experience. His solution: to return to the Middle East to fight in Syria with the Free Army. The story begins when Haris Abadi reaches the border. With occasional trips to a backstory, we follow him and those who people his life as he moves his journey forward. We feel the authenticity, and, indeed, the author is a military vet who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who also reported from the story’s locale. Perhaps a good companion piece to Hamid’s ‘Exit West’?”
“Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World” by Timothy Ferriss is bookseller Will’s latest recommendation. Will says: “This isn’t a coffee table book per se, but it’s a book I like to keep handy for occasional perusal/inspiration. In other words, Tribe isn’t a book you’ll read every day, but every time you do, you’ll be glad you did. If you enjoy the Tim Ferriss podcast; this book is for you. Each chapter is essentially one episode in concentrated form. All killer, no filler!!”
“The Woman in the Window” by A.J. Finn. Bookseller Kathleen says: “There is so much I want to tell you about this book but I’m afraid – I don’t want to give one single thing away! And the ending – I didn’t see it coming. The main character, Anna Fox, is truly an unreliable narrator. Can she be trusted? Is she to be believed? An agoraphobic who has her own troubled life (to say the very least), Anna claims to be a witness to a murder but did the murder even happen?? No one – and nothing – is what it seems.”